Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson held a press conference earlier today ahead of his side's UEFA Champions League group-stage tie tomorrow with CFR Cluj. During it, the gaffer revealed that this match has come too soon for Nemanja Vidic's return and the captain will not feature at the weekend either for the Manchester derby.
"I don't think Nemanja will play. He feels he needs another few days' training so he won't be available. He's not far away. He's training well now but I think another few days will bring him on better. If he doesn't play tomorrow there's no chance he'll play in the derby game. I wasn't considering Nemanja for Sunday [versus Manchester City] anyway. Playing tomorrow would have been a bonus but Sunday would have been too soon [for that sort of game]."
- Ferguson | Source: ManUtd.com
There had been speculation Vida could be ready in time to help stabilize the defense -- especially after their debacle last weekend versus Reading -- but as Ferguson said, a massive game like the derby was always likely to be too much of an ask for a player who hasn't regularly featured since the spring of 2011. Rio Ferdinand is expected to anchor the back four and he'll likely be partnered in central-defense by either Jonny Evans or Chris Smalling.
"Kagawa started running today. He may make the bench [against City]. Obviously Nani and Valencia are still out and that's why I played Rooney on wide right. I thought it was his best performance of the season. Against Cluj I'm picking a team without any thought of Manchester City. It's a matter of who needs a game."
Kagawa was anticipated to be out a bit longer so that's obviously some good news. The Japanese international, though, might find it hard to find the bench at the Etihad because just as discussed for Vida, the game might be too massive for a player to be involved who hasn't been playing regularly. Valencia was thought to be nearing a return last week so, perhaps, he might be ready at some point this week. The updates for the Ecuadorian have been somewhat vague as of late. Without him nor Nani available, Ashley Young is the only natural winger in the squad right now. It's very possible that United use a midfield diamond shape versus Cluj tomorow night.
Ferguson indicated that he'll rest of number of his first-choice players ahead of Sunday's ahead of Sunday's derby. However, Wayne Rooney, though, will feature tomorrow night at Old Trafford.
"We'll rest some players tomorrow, as we did against Galatasaray. But we have to be fair to all the teams who are trying to reach important positions - whether that's the Champions League or the Europa League. In that respect, we'll play a team that we expect will win. But there will be changes. When Wayne gets interrupted he needs three games to get back.That's why he'll definitely play tomorrow. Wayne needs to play a lot of games to get his match-fitness up. He's a strongly-built lad and when he misses two games, it takes him three games to come back. It's the way he's always been. He'll play tomorrow night and hopefully that brings him on further. On Saturday [at Reading], that was his best performance of the season so far."
None of Javier Hernandez (Chicharito), Danny Welbeck, and Ryan Giggs started last weekend at Reading and because Ferguson has indicated he wants to play players in need of a game, they seem to be strong possibilities to start alongside Rooney. Nick Powell should be in contention too.
The gaffer also offered up some thoughts on his side's recent defensive struggles:
"I think we're getting punished when the ball's going into our box at the moment. But we should be defending far better. Albeit, Reading produced some fantastic balls into the box. We should be expecting better. It's a worry. If we perform like that on Sunday then God knows what's going to happen to us. When you see the goals against - we've lost 32 already - I can't remember us losing so many goals before Christmas. It's a concern, there's no question about that. When you see City have Balotelli, Dzeko - all really tall players - it's going to be a big challenge. But that's on Sunday. Tomorrow we've got a different game."